Analysis of the FlightAware.com flight-following site by AINsafety has revealed that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17 was between 150 and 300 nm farther north than some previous flights by the airline on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur route. AIN learned, however, that some of FlightAware.com’s data tracks over Ukraine were created using information estimates. The question still remains whether the jetliner would have been shot down had it adhered to a more southerly track. However, alternative site FlightRadar24.com does not reveal any such deviation from the usual course and appears to use actual ADS-B- and ATC-derived flight data.
The airspace in eastern Ukraine was open at the time of the crash. Malaysia Airlines and many other international carriers continued to fly through it, even though several other airlines had chosen to reroute away from the conflict zone. Malaysian transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said MH17 followed the route it did because the airspace was deemed to be safe above FL320 and was being regularly used by other commercial flights.
After the crash, the airspace was fully closed by Ukraine, and several national aviation authorities, including the FAA, banned aircraft registered in their jurisdictions from overflying the area around the Simferopol and Dnipropetrovsk flight information regions. In April, the FAA issued a notam barring U.S. flight operations from nearby Crimea, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It remains unclear when or if international investigators, including a small NTSB team, will be allowed to access the as yet unsecured accident site. The FAA said it plans to re-evaluate the airspace prohibition by the end of October.